Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has vowed to “act decisively” against a school that used a cartoon ridiculing President Jacob Zuma in an exam question paper.
The school used a drawing of cartoonist Zapiro, real name Jonathan Shapiro, depicting Zuma with a shower head floating in a pool of money and having a drink.
The first question asks who the man in the cartoon is, while the second question asks if the pupils will vote for Zuma, based on the cartoon. Lesufi would not name the school, citing safety reasons, but said the question paper was for Grade 6 pupils.
Responding to the first question, one the pupils wrote: “No I wouldn’t (vote for Zuma) because he looks way too stupid to think about others and he’s swimming in money, which shows that he is selfish when it comes to money.”
Next to the answer is a “Good”, supposedly written by the teacher using a red pen.
A parent who saw the cartoon complained to Lesufi and asked that he investigate the matter.
On his personal Facebook account, Lesufi stated: “How dare you ask schoolchildren in class these questions? Forgive me, but on Monday we will act decisively against this school! May I thank the parents who brought this to our attention. Someone will fall, we can assure you!”
Gauteng education spokeswoman Nanagolo Leopeng said: “At this stage we are not in a position to disclose the name of the school. We take serious exception to this and have requested officials to investigate this matter,” she said.
A team from the department visited the school on Monday, and Lesufi was expected to make an announcement on Tuesday on what action would be taken against the school.
Speaking to The Star on Monday, Lesufi said the question was posed in a Grade 6 test at a Christian school. “What saddens me is that this is from a Christian school.
“My team went to the school to gather information, and from that we will take decisive action. Teaching is about teaching and not transferring your hatred of something or a person onto the learners.”
Lesufi said he would take similar action if the school had used a cartoon depicting a politician from another party. “It is about the principle and not the person. Even if it was Mandela or Julius Malema, we would still take the same stance.
“We don’t mind learners being exposed to issues, but that should not be done in a personal way.”
Education expert Professor Mary Metcalfe said while visual literacy and interpretation was part of the curriculum, the way in which cartoons were used should be based on a clear professional judgement.
“In this matter, the teacher needs to give an account of the value of this to education,” she said. “When using political or religious cartoons, teachers need to give careful consideration to material that can cause offence. It is possible to teach critical thinking and choose material that is not offensive.”
ANC spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni said the party wished to allow Lesufi to investigate the matter, but “on the face of it, there is no way such a cartoon should be allowed in school to teach learners”.
Comment from the Presidency was not immediately available.
The Star (@ReporterStar) conducted a poll on Twitter on Monday, asking users whether schools should be allowed to ask questions like the one used at the school. Forty-six percent of the respondents responded with a “no”, 29 percent said it was freedom of expression while 17 percent said they didn’t care. Eight percent said “yes”.
Our #QOTD: Should schools be allowed to ask pupils these kind of questions?
— The Star Reporter (@ReporterStar) May 23, 2016
In 2014, The Star published a story about a parent who complained to Ridgeway Primary School in Roodepoort after a teacher allegedly told her 10-year-old son that he was “stupid like (President) Jacob Zuma, who could not pronounce numbers properly in his speeches”.
The teacher allegedly made the disparaging remark after the child could not answer a maths question. The Gauteng Department of Education later cleared the teacher.
In 2010, a teacher at Reservoir Hills Secondary School in Durban was given a warning after she compared her pupils to Zuma. The teacher had remarked that her pupils were “acting innocently, like the stupid one, President Jacob Zuma”.